This article brings you four of our best circuit workouts of the year (so far!). The workouts selected offer a diverse range of training outcomes – from fat loss to strength. If you use them across the week, you’ll engage every aspect of your fitness.
As well as promoting whole-body physicality, the following four best circuit workouts will help you lose weight and sharpen muscle tonality.
Each workout encompasses a broad range of exercise methods. In addition to diversifying the training outcomes, the circuits will appeal to a wider audience.
However, this doesn’t mean you have to walk away without whipping up a sweat. Instead, you might find circuit three (Functional Fitness Workout) more appealing.
Best circuit workouts
Each of the best circuit workouts features a brief ‘how-to’ explanation. The explanation outlines how the circuit works and the training effect (that is, the component of fitness the circuit aims to improve).
For beginner trainers or those that prefer a more detailed overview, all the explanations include a link to the main circuit page. There you will find an expansive outline including a session plan and, where applicable, an exercise tutorial.
Underneath the explanation, the fitness benefits of each circuit have been listed. This way you’ll be able to select a circuit that promotes fitness outcomes that align with your training goals.
Don’t forget to warm-up
The best circuit workout explanations below do not include a warm-up. However, all the main session plans include a comprehensive warm-up that is specifically tailored to the circuit.
Alternatively, this all-purpose gym warm up can be used for all workouts.
Best Circuit Workouts #1: HIIT Running
The first workout is a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) running scorcher. This workout is ideal for those that find cardio tedious and loath long bouts of continuous training.
This HIIT running session delivers the same fitness benefits as a 5-miler but takes half the time. In addition, because of the adaptability of the workout, it can be organised around resistance exercises. Including resistance or bodyweight movements further breaks up the monotony of the running intervals while also adding that circuit flavour.
And, finally, this circuit is not confined solely to running. If you’re averse to running and prefer, say, cycling (skipping, airdyne cycling, even swimming) you can swop CV exercises.
Related: This Skipping Rope is ideal for home training
Best circuit workout benefits
Enhances cardio capacity
Improves cardiovascular efficiency
Develops the strength of the muscles of the cardio-respiratory system
Helps to burn calories
Makes for a demanding CV training alternative
HIIT running circuit how-to
The HIIT running workout features three levels – beginner, intermediate, and advanced. As you’d expect, the interval intensity and duration increase with each level. Before starting the workout it’s wise to select the level most suited to your current cardio fitness.
The workout is split into four sections and each section is comprised of three separate intervals. On completion of the three intervals, you will progress to the next section.
As with the levels, the sections get progressively more challenging as the interval duration increases. Here’s a snapshot of the HIIT running workout:
Follow the link for the complete session plan: HIIT Running Workout
HIIT running workout key points
Remember, the warm-up is a crucial component of any workout – but this is especially so when training at a high intensity.
Select the workout level most suited to your current cardio fitness.
Progress through the intervals ensuring to maintain the highest intensity possible.
Consider making a note of distances achieved on each interval. This will give you a benchmark to compete against should you have another bash at this workout.
You are entitled to take a full minute rest between sections – that is, after every three intervals.
Best Circuit Workouts #2: 20-Minute Kettlebell Workout
In the book The Russian Kettlebell Challenge, a leading powerlifter is quoted as having stated that ‘not a single sport develops our muscular strength and bodies as well as kettlebell athletics.’ The dynamic functionality of kettlebells makes them a formidable training tool for forging cast-iron fitness.
The uber-compact 20-minute kettlebell blast below delivers an explosive training experience. This high-volume circuit engages all the major muscle groups. And because you’ll be sustaining an intense output for the duration of the circuit, it also promotes aerobic fitness and superior muscle endurance.
Best circuit workout benefits
Develops muscular endurance in a broad range of muscle groups
Engages the aerobic system
Can enhance muscular strength (if you interchange with a heavy bell)
Melts fat and incinerates calories
Highly customisable and can be adapted to accommodate a range of training objectives
20-Minute kettlebell workout how-to
This workout couldn’t be simpler. The 20-minutes is split across four 5-minute sections. Each section is comprised of either one or two kettlebell exercises. For example, section one features just the clean & jerk continuous cycle whereas section two features the goblet squat and swing.
The objective of each section is simple. You are to complete as many reps as possible (AMRAP) of the exercise(s) in 5-minutes.
Related: Check out this Complete Guide to AMRAP Training
For those sections that feature two KB exercises, you are to oscillate between them for the stipulated duration. A recommended rep range and a space to document your total scores have been provided.
20-Minute Kettlebell Workout key points
Prior to attacking the four 5-minute AMRAPs, ensure to warm-up well first.
Concluding the warm-up, prepare to complete the first section – five continuous minutes of the clean & jerk cycle.
It’s advisable to use a countdown timer for the AMRAPs. This way you can focus on the exercise and amassing reps instead of clock watching.
After the time elapses, treat yourself to a minute recovery break before progressing to the next section.
Be a sport and log your rep scores on completion of each section. This will provide you with a benchmark to compete against when you next tackle this fiery little number.
Best Circuit Workouts #3: Functional Fitness
The aim of this functional fitness workout is to develop whole-body dynamic strength. Dynamic strength, in case you’re scratching your head, is the type of strength we use in everyday life. It isn’t about impressing gym buddies or how much weight you can bench during a static lift.
This sort of strength is about being able to exert force against a resistance while coordinating your body through a series of movements. Think about the many ways that an overhead lunge engages the body compared to, say, seated leg presses. The lunge develops dynamic strength. The leg press doesn’t.
Best circuit workout benefits
Whole body training session
Improved functional fitness
Improved core stability
Increased muscle strength and control
Increased muscle endurance
Enhanced muscle definition
Engage your muscles in unconventional ways
Fat loss and activated aerobic system
Functional fitness circuit workout how-to
You can approach this workout in one of two ways. First, there is the standard sets and reps approach (3 to 5 sets of 8 to 12 reps). The objective is to complete the number of sets stipulated at your leisure. You can take as much rest as you feel you need. This first approach is more suited to beginners or people that primarily use machines. When you become acquainted with the functional exercises, you can then consider having a go at the circuit.
The second approach is organised around a series of short AMRAPs (as many reps as possible). For each of the exercises, your objective is to perform as many reps as possible in 5-minutes. On completion of the AMRAP, you are entitled to a two-minute rest.
A third option, which is not mentioned in the workout plan, is to progress through the exercises as you would a circular circuit. Either decide on the number of reps or time per station that you want to apply, then attempt as many laps of the circuit as possible in 10-, 20-, or 30-minutes.
Functional fitness exercise list
1: Dumbbell swing into snatch pull
2: Dumbbell overhead lunge
3: Dumbbell farmers’ walk
4: Barbell sumo squat into high pull
5: Barbell hang clean
6: Barbell thruster
Functional fitness circuit workout key points
Dedicate at least the first 10-minutes of your workout to a progressive intensity warm-up.
When you’re warm and ready, decide which workout option is most aligned with your training objectives.
Follow the formula outlined above remembering to a) select a weight commensurate with your current level of strength, and b) prioritise form over volume.
Best Circuit Workouts #4: 30-Minute Dumbbell Workout
The final circuit consists of 30-minutes of dumbbell training. Dumbbells are a diverse training tool that can be used to engage multiple components of fitness – strength, power, and muscle endurance.
As well as being super-versatile, dumbbells offer a more comfortable exercise experience because they accommodate your natural movement patterns.
Exercise machines and, to a lesser extent, barbells restrict your range of movement. Worse still, they force your body to follow a fixed trajectory. This can cause discomfort while also aggravating joints.
Dumbbells (as well as kettlebells, cables, and resistance bands) do not restrict your natural movement patterns. Thus, you may find that, as well as being more comfortable during exercise, you suffer fewer unpleasant aches and pains after training.
Best circuit workout benefits
Builds whole-body strength
Promotes muscular endurance
Enhances physical functionality
Can be customised to suit your training objectives and exercise preferences
30-minute dumbbell workout how-to
As with the above circuit, there are two options to choose from here.
Option one aims to build whole-body strength. It’s for this reason that the sets and reps are low and the rest periods long. To get the most from this workout you should select a pair of heavy dumbbells.
A bit of a workout-within-a-workout situation, with the second option you can choose between either an AMRAP (as many reps as possible) or EMOM (every minute on the minute). As you’re already familiar with the AMRAP method, we’ll move straight on to the EMOM.
Related: Check out our Complete Guide to EMOM Training
Each dumbbell exercise is scheduled for 5-minutes. The objective is to complete the specified number of reps in under a minute. However many seconds remain on the clock you can take as rest. When the next minute starts you are to get straight back into the exercise. For the full session plan, follow the link: 30-Minute Dumbbell Workout.
Dumbbell exercise list
1: standing dumbbell fly
2: db bicep curl
3: dumbbell chest press
4: dumbbell bent-over row
5: dumbbell reverse lunge
6: dumbbell reverse lunge
Dumbbell circuit key points
Ensure to warm-up before starting the circuit.
Select the training option most suited to your fitness goals.
Familiarise yourself with the dumbbell exercises before starting the workout.
A good way to get acquainted with the exercise before trying the more demanding AMRAP or EMOM, is to complete option one (sets, reps, rest) first.
Enjoyed these best circuit workouts?
Get your hands on 70 more with the Hungry4Fitness Book of Circuits & Workouts Volume 2.